Monday, May 21, 2012

Dharun Ravi sentenced to 30 days in jail in Tyler Clementi webcam suicide case

A New Jersey judge sentenced 20-year-old Indian-born Dharun Ravi to a 30-day jail term on Monday, bringing the Rutgers webcam spying case to its apparent close. Ravi was also sentenced to 300 hours of community service, 3 years of probation, and a $10,000 fine.

Ravi had been facing a maximum of 10 years in prison after being found guilty of bias intimidation and invasion of privacy in a case that exploded onto the national scene when Ravi's roommate, Tyler Clementi, committed suicide.

Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman added that he would not recommend Ravi be deported to India, where he was born and remains a citizen.

Defense attorneys wanted no jail time. Prosecutors wanted a harsher jail trerm. Explaining his sentence, Judge Berman said,

"This individual was not convicted of a hate crime, he was convicted of a bias crime, and there's a difference. I say that because I do not believe he hated Tyler Clementi. He had no reason to."

However, Berman said, Ravi's crimes were committed out of "colossal insensitivity," adding that "I heard this jury say, 'guilty' 288 times -- 24 questions, 12 jurors. That's the multiplication. I haven’t heard you [Dharun Ravi] apologize once."

Clementi, 18, threw himself off of the George Washington Bridge in September of 2010, shortly after learning that Dharun Ravi had secretly videotaped him in their room with a another male.

In the initial incident, Clementi asked Ravi for some privacy for himself and a guest. Ravi went to the dorm room of Molly Wei, a friend, where he remotely accessed his webcam. In testimony, it was said that he and Wei saw only seconds of Clementi kissing his guest, who was identified in court by the initials MB.

However, Ravi and his friend spread word of the tryst via Twitter and instant messages.

Later, Wei showed a few seconds of the video to other residents of the dorm. As part of a plea agreement, Wei agreed to testify at the trial, and also entered a pre-trial intervention program that includes 300 hours of community service, and counseling on cyber-bullying and alternative lifestyles. If Wei completes the program, all charges against her will be dropped.

Two days later, Clementi against asked for privacy. Ravi agreed, but then told friends how they could access his webcam. However, for whatever reason, the webcam was enabled when MB came over.

The following night, Tyler Clementi committed suicide by jumping to his death from the George Washington bridge. As he did, he posted from his cell phone on Facebook, "Jumping off the gw bridge sorry."

Jurors were told during the trial that Clementi checked Dharun Ravi's Twitter feed 37 times prior to his suicide.

Prosecutors offered Ravi a plea bargain agreement that called for no prison time, but would have forced him to admit to committing six different crimes. Ravi turned it down, taking his chances with a jury.

However, after a trial that lasted four weeks, Ravi was convicted of all 15 criminal counts he was charged with, including four counts of the hate crime of bias intimidation, invasion of privacy and seven different crimes which encompassed Ravi attempted to cover up the incident by tampering with evidence and other means.

While this appears to be the end of the case, prosecutors said they plan to appeal the sentence.

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